Curiosity killed the cat

Example in use: “I really wanted to know what had happened but my boss told me that curiosity killed the cat. I think it’s better if I forget all about it.”

Meaning: Asking too many questions, or being too curious about something could be dangerous or lead to a difficult situation.

Possible German equivalent: Neugier ist der Katze Tod.

Possible origin: This expression can be dated back to the 16th century in the form, “care will kill the cat” meaning that worrying about things could be dangerous. This can also be found in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and it isn’t until the late 1800’s that it transforms to “care killed the cat” and then in the early 1900’s, the expression we know today “curiosity killed the cat” is listed in a book of proverbs. It was even used in a newspaper headline in a 1916 Washington Post in a report about the loss of poor Blackie, a cat whose curiosity led him to climb up a chimney where he couldn’t be rescued.

This idiom combines the idea that curiosity is something that should be avoided, (there are many literary references over the years about the bad things that can happen if you are too nosey), and the fact that cats want to know and get into everything sometimes to the point of danger, (think about their nine lives), making an expression that is visual and easy to understand.

Curiosity / ˌkjʊəriˈɒsəti

Welcome again to our weekly series that hopes to go behind the scenes of some rather typical English expressions.